NOLA Boards is a New Orleans business that uses scrap wood to make handcrafted cutting boards, countertops, and custom furniture. The company is owned and operated by Mandy Simpson and her husband Daren Sumrow. It started with humble beginnings but has flourished into a successful business that is aligned with the UN Goal of Responsible Consumption. The company, which has been in operation for 5 years, continues to grow in profitability while also helping south Louisiana maintain its tree population.
Nicholls State University
NOLA Boards is a company based out of New Orleans that uses a business model focused on reducing the overall production waste. This innovation emerged in an effort for NOLA Boards to have a smaller impact on the amount of unusable waste that is produced during the production of cutting boards. The benefit came about from Mandy Simpson. She explained how the company has a woodworker who repurposes leftover scrap wood. They also give micro-farmers leftover sawdust. With these two operations, they have reduced the amount of waste that is ultimately dumped into landfills. As Many explains: “our dumpster, we would have to dump maybe twice a month, we now only dump once a month.” They also donate old furniture and unneeded products to a New Orleans resale company called The Green Project. A major benefit that Simpson points out about using sinker cypress is that the benefit of using these as an input is there is no cutting of new trees to acquire the materials. This allows NOLA Boards to have less impact on taking lumber out of wooded areas for their products.
top left- Mandy Simpson top right - Mandy Simpson and Daren Sumrow
The idea of becoming an entrepreneur was never a main goal or focus for Mandy Simpson. Before starting NOLA Boards Ms. Simpson was having successful careers as a photographer and working in a heart transplant facility for almost a decade. Her husband, Daren Sumrow, has been doing woodwork for over 20 years, and by chance, a friend asked him to make a cutting board as a gift for a wedding. Her husband obliged, and once he was finished using her background in photography she took a picture and posted it to Facebook.
The response from friends and family was surprising with many people placing orders for cutting boards. Ms. Simpson realized that the cutting boards could be a way to make some extra money on the side. She convinced her husband to use scrap wood from his business to make the boards, and they began selling the boards not only to friends and family but also customers at different New Orleans markets and festivals. The boards were a hit and in such high demand, Ms. Simpson decided to leave her job in the heart transplant field. “I was getting burnt out at my job, it was intense, and he (Daren) needed help on the administrative side of the business so I decided let’s do this,” said Simpson.
This innovation impacts the business, society, and the environment by allowing for NOLA Boards to turn its waste into useful products instead of filling landfills. These innovations are providing resources to local businesses that would otherwise have to be bought via wasteful alternatives. Using sinker cypress prevents unnecessarily cutting down trees for lumber. As Simpson stated: “they also get them (sinker cypress trees) out of swamps...some of the trees that have fallen over naturally.” By reclaiming lost wood instead of fresh hardwoods that require contributing to the cutting down of more trees, NOLA Boards operates in a sustainable way.
NOLA Boards benefits from this innovation in many different ways. At one time NOLA Boards sold their products in different local businesses' stores, but now sells their products nationally.
NOLA Boards uses wood that has already been either knocked over during a storm or harvested a long time ago that has been sunk in the river. They call it sinker cypress. People go out and recover these logs in the river and convert them into high quality products to be sold. Therefore, they are contributing to the local economy. She also uses scrap wood from her husband's countertop business. The only wood that goes to waste are tiny wood shavings, and even those sometimes are used in some projects.
Mandy Simpson, Owner of Nola Boards
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New Orleans, Louisiana, US
Business Website: https://www.nolaboards.com/
Year Founded: 2014
Number of Employees: 11 to 50
NOLA Boards is an environmentally conscious business that uses scrap wood to make custom, handcrafted cutting boards, countertops, and furniture. NOLA Boards serves the New Orleans community but has expanded its business to Baton Rouge, LA, and nationally via the internet.